At Microsoft, PM stands for program manager, whereas at most other tech companies, it means product manager. Depending on the company, you can also find roles such as technical program manager and project manager, the latter especially common in a swathe of other industries.
Here’s my perspective on what program management looks like at Microsoft, and some ways to think about product that I wish I had thought about when I first started working.
1. What you do as a Microsoft PM largely depends on your org, team, and product.
On some teams, a PM at Microsoft will resemble the industry definition of a product manager: they develop and advocate for the product vision, build the roadmap, interact with customers to collect feedback, and work cross-functionally with engineering, design, marketing, customer support, etc. over the product or feature lifecycle, from ideation through launch and beyond. At Microsoft, this kind of role may be referred to as a ‘feature PM’ or ‘product PM.’
On other teams, a PM at Microsoft may be closer to the industry definition of a program manager or technical program manager. This role can be heavier in terms of operations, business development, or account management. This might look like working with other PMs to design and execute internal business processes, communicate with partners to troubleshoot issues, and align multiple internal business or development teams.
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In Windows, for example, this can look like building and maintaining relationships with important partners up and down the hardware stack, at various levels of manufacturing, which can include: OEMs (original equipment manufacturers), who bring together all components for an overall device, such as Lenovo, Dell, and Acer; ODMs (original design manufacturers), and ISVs (individual software vendors).
If you’re considering joining Microsoft as a program manager, try to narrow down which product teams you are interested in, identify people working on those areas, and ask…